The Consumers’ Foundation yesterday submitted a petition to the Control Yuan, requesting that it censure incumbent and former Ministry of Transportation and Communications officials in charge of managing domestic sightseeing tours, citing recurring major bus accidents over the past decade.
Nine bus accidents have occurred since 2006, with the accident in Tainan’s Meiling scenic area that killed 21 people and injured 24 being the first, foundation chairman Yu Kai-hsiung (游開雄) said.
In December 2012, an 11-year-old bus crashed in Hsinchu County’s Jianshih Township (尖石), leaving 13 people dead and 10 injured.
The buses in both those accidents and Monday’s deadly bus crash on the Chiang Wei-shui Memorial Freeway (Freeway No. 5) that killed 33 people were all more than 10 years old, Yu said, accusing the ministry of neglecting to regulate buses used for sightseeing tours.
Regulations on tourist buses were lifted last year, which was a step backward by the ministry, he said.
The ministry in 2007 amended the Transportation Management Regulations (汽車運輸業管理規則), stipulating that buses older than 11 years not be driven into mountainous areas, Yu said.
However, that rule was abolished in 2015. Except for certain road sections where buses are banned, old buses now have access to all roads, he said.
The rule on bus tours for Chinese tourists were stricter, with buses that have been in service for seven years prohibited from transporting Chinese, he said.
The restriction was gradually relaxed before it was lifted last year, he said.
Current rules only mandate that new buses undergo a thorough safety check, while buses that are older than nine years only need to have their exhaust pipes, brakes and lights checked, which is insufficient to determine the safety of a vehicle, he said, calling on the authorities to include the bodywork as a safety item check.
The petition was received by Control Yuan member Yin Tso-chien (尹祚芊) during a closed-door meeting with foundation members.
“We thought the Control Yuan made two corrective measures against the ministry, but Yin said that there had been six,” Yu said after the meeting.
“However, every time news of a major accident has petered out, the ministry acts as if nothing happened,” Yu said.
Control Yuan member Chang Kuei-mei (仉桂美), who received the case, said in a telephone interview that regulations on bus drivers’ shifts should be thoroughly reviewed and overhauled.
The interpretations given by the Ministry of Transportation and Communications and the Ministry of Labor are not aligned, as the two ministries have yet to agree on whether drivers waiting for tourists to return between destinations should be considered to be working, she said.
Government agencies should address the core issues and not allow their efforts to be disrupted by personnel reshuffles accompanying transitions of power, she said.
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